Thursday, May 28, 2015

High-Occupancy Toll Lanes: Business Model

Like many in the area, I spend a great deal of time in traffic. I listen to radio, and just recently I heard some chatter about how the VA governor wants to deal with the I66 expansion differently than they did with the I95 and I495 "HOT" lanes system. The way those expansions were funded were that ostensibly a private corporation paid for the expansion, and in turn gets to operate the toll system and keep the proceeds. And in order to make a pay-to-save-time system work the systems would adjust the rates based on non-HOT line traffic conditions. Sounds like a win for everyone, right?

You'd be dead wrong. Without transparency on how the pricing is calculated, this encourages:

  1. The hiring of drivers to interfere with main line traffic. Result? More trips at a higher rate on the HOT lanes.
  2. Since the road maintenance crews are the same for the HOT lane and main line, it encourages extended, longer, and more inconvenient work on the main line. Especially if the toll road operator shares these with the road maintenance contractors in the form of preferential contracts.

Now of course, I have no proof. Just observations. But it makes one think, just a little, that perhaps the incentives, agreements, and general political sausage (after all, that's how you get to operate a toll road) needs a great deal more daylight.

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